In Visit, NCAA President Underscores the Importance of All Student-AthletesSeptember 24, 2014

Though the prime-time Division I football games and the March basketball tournament get most of the attention as far as the NCAA is concerned, those sports represent a tiny fraction of the NCAA’s student-athletes.

That’s according to Mark Emmert, Ph.D., the president of the NCAA, who visited Rockhurst University Tuesday for that evening’s Visiting Scholar Lecture. Emmert said the most visible of the NCAA’s athletes make up only 3 percent of the total number of student-athletes.

With 460,000 total student-athletes in the NCAA’s 19,000 athletic teams, that means there are a lot of players who may not have the same spotlight, but who are no less important to the organization.

“The challenge in having so many athletes and so many sports is knowing what’s really happening on campus,” Emmert said during a student-athlete huddle Tuesday. “That’s why when I’m invited to speak somewhere, I like to spend some time on campus and with the student-athletes.”

Emmert ate lunch with those student-athletes and later met with coaches and administrators at Rockhurst University, and those students also came to Emmert’s lecture, some with gear in tow.

“I don’t give too many speeches with lacrosse sticks stacked up in the back of the room,” he joked.

During his lecture, Emmert said that while college sports have grown, the aim of the NCAA — to provide opportunities for personal growth for college athletes —has not. Citing graduation and GPA statistics, he said college athletes tend to have better outcomes than non-athletes and are perhaps better prepared for careers that require flexibility and teamwork, among other skills.

The message that the NCAA faces important decisions but remains steadfast in its support of all athletes resonated with student-athletes who listened. Maggie Hummel, a senior volleyball player and Student Athlete Advisory Committee president, said she enjoyed being able to talk about the future of college athletics.

“This is such a great opportunity to learn more about what the NCAA is doing for all student-athletes, even though for many of us, we know one day our playing time will end,” she said.

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